Dictionary.com defines bedside manner as “the attitude, approach, and deportment of a doctor with patients” (dictionary.com). What the heck is deportment? The Oxford Dictionary defines deportment as “a person’s behavior or manners” (Oxford Dictionary). So bedside manner, defined and slightly interpreted means the attitude, approach, and behavior of a doctor with patients. Most doctors that I’ve known all my life have been pretty good. My childhood doctor growing up (Dr. Senft) was awesome. He was super nice. He was typical of a small, hometown, family physician. Dr. Brango was even better. We took all of our kids at some point to Dr. Brango until we moved (except Amelia because she wasn’t born yet). But he was awesome. And we had some great conversations over the years. He was also a believer. And both Dr. Senft and Dr, Brango would be considered doctors who have a very good bedside manner. They have a good rapport with patients.
On the other hand, other doctors have a really poor bedside manner like Dr. House from the TV show HOUSE. He was the complete opposite of nice. He had more of an in-your-face, tell it like it is, and no sugar coating kind of bedside manner. Of course it always helped that he saved every patient within a one hour time format and everyone always went home happy. But he has that advantage since he’s a fictional character in a TV show. But I have had some doctors who didn’t have a great bedside manner. They’ll remain nameless for our purposes here today.
Yet Dr. House is not unlike some Christians that I know. They have a Dr. House kind of bedside manner when it comes to dealing with people, especially with evangelism. They go right in for the kill. They treat evangelism like deer hunting in Harford County. Harford County won’t let you use cool, gentle, nice, and quiet firearms like a rifle. No sir. You use a shotgun. You squeeze the trigger and BANG! That deer is dead and everyone from miles away can hear it!
And that’s the way a lot of Christians have been taught to do evangelism. To them, it’s like going in for the kill with a shotgun. It starts with a knock on the door. It’s followed by an impersonal presentation of the Romans Road. And it’s ended with pray a prayer with me right now or you’re going to hell! Turn or burn! BANG! It’s like a shotgun. And it IS shocking. And it is offensive to most people. It’s anything but effective. It’s the worst possible bedside manner you could take. And it’s unfortunate. Because half my job is undoing the damage of what some Christians have done. It makes my job so much harder as a Church Planter to get people to come and check out what we’re doing because people are very cautious (with good reason).
And that’s a sad thing. We literally have the greatest news in the history of the world. Yet so many people have burned bridges because of bad delivery (a poor bedside manner). And that goes for all kinds of communication, not just delivering the Good News. If we don’t agree with someone, the worst possible thing we could do is get angry, raise our voices, and/or respond with angry sarcasm. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, told us that almost 3,000 years ago. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 ESV).
It’s all in the delivery! If we want to get our message across, we as Christians need to look to Jesus. His bedside manner, His delivery was the absolute best. And people listened to Him. But He didn’t just take one approach. He was not a one-trick pony. We’ve already talked about how He dealt with religious snobs. It was OK to fire back at them. But with most other people, especially people down on their luck, He was super gentle. He was like the best doctor ever. Even though He just finished telling you that you had spiritual-death-cancer coming, somehow you walk away feeling good about the treatment He’s going to provide. And that’s the approach He’s taking today with the woman at the well.
So today we want to cover the first half of the story as Jesus approaches the woman at the well (in John chapter 4). And then next week we can finish the story as we see what happens. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Amazon Prime, but today we’re looking at Missional Prime. For anyone who has Amazon Prime, they know they are getting a good value. You get packages delivered fast and affordable. And you get all kinds of extras with your membership. It literally pays for itself. Amazon knows how to deliver and treat their customers well.
So Missional Prime is similar. It’s all in the delivery. Someone who is missional is going to approach people like Jesus did. People are not projects. They are not deer that we hunt with a shotgun. Missional Prime Evangelists will have a bedside manner much like Jesus. They will take time to get to know people, listen, pray for them, and figure out what they need. And most people believe something. It might be part of the truth. It might contain the truth. It might be a convenient truth that doesn’t challenge them or make them change anything about their lives.
But everyone believes something. And they develop their worldview based on what they feel is important. What is a worldview? It’s basically how someone chooses to live their life based on what they believe. And everyone has a worldview (even non-believers). Our job as Christians is to develop a biblical worldview and guide other people to see what we see. But how we share it with people makes all the difference in the world. It’s all in the delivery!
1. Delivering the Good News breaks down barriers (of race, religion, social and financial status, etc.) and builds bridges.
“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” (John 4:1-9 ESV).
John only records four words that Jesus spoke up to this point. However, those four words say so much! He said, Give me a drink. And of course, it’s impossible to tell the tone of His voice and how this was actually delivered from words on a page. We have the Words but we don’t have the video of how it all went down. But everything that comes before this and after this tells the tale. It says that Jesus was on His way to Galilee. He had left Jerusalem and apparently had enough of the Pharisees for now. He didn’t want to deal with them anymore at this point. I believe He made His point when He turned the tables and spoke with Nicodemus.
So now He’s on His way back to Galilee (picture). But in order to get there He had to pass through Samaria. And He came to a place called Sychar. And it’s interesting that John puts that in there because many Jews had such a hatred for Samaritans that they traveled out of their way to avoid the area (picture). So they would cross over the Jordan River (on the east side) and travel North to avoid Samaria altogether. But Jesus didn’t do that. It said He had to go this way. It was the shortest way but it wasn’t the most popular way. Yet it was the way He wanted to go because it made a bold statement about who He was trying to reach, who He was, and what His mission was. So in my opinion, Give me a drink ended with a wearied question mark.
But what was this big deal? Why did Jews hate Samaritans? It was a racial and religious issue. Back in the day, when Israel was split into two kingdoms (Israel in the North and Judea in the South), the Northern Kingdom was eventually conquered by Assyria (in 722 BC) and many people were carried off into exile. And what happened is that some people were left there but Assyria also brought in people (other captives from other places) and they intermarried. So the result is that the Israelites ended up as a mixed race of people. And the Samaritans were the result. They were considered half-Jews. So this was a racial issue. Racism is nothing new. And it’s never a good thing.
But it was also a religious issue because the Samaritans technically still worshipped the same God. Unfortunately, they mixed in false worship. They only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. Plus, they made some changes to it to fit their own needs which is not smart. So that’s nothing new either. People have been doing that for a long time. Needless to say, the Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. But they were neighbors geographically.
And Jesus passed through this place to get to where He was going. So by the time He gets to this well, He’s tired. Remember, Jesus is God, but He became one of us. He became a man. He had to deal with fatigue just like we do. He was tired. He was thirsty. He was not the energizer bunny. He couldn’t keep going and going. He needed to take a rest and get a drink. And the lesson we take away from this is huge. It’s life-changing. With those four words He spoke, He cut through racial, religious, and even gender barriers of the day.
So not only was this person a Samaritan, but she was also a woman. She and her water jar that Jesus wanted to drink from would’ve been considered unclean by the Jews. But Jesus talks to her anyway. This was a Divine appointment! While man always seems to want to tear people apart, God’s desire is always to bring people together! So this Divine appointment at high noon (the 6th hour) was a big deal. And it’s significant because noon wasn’t normally the time when women would come to get water. It would be way too hot.
In this case it makes sense because of her reputation. She might’ve been trying to avoid the other women of the town. They would’ve typically come during the morning or evening when it was cooler. So noon would’ve been a great time to avoid people. And the wells were also typically located on the outskirts of town along a main road. And that makes sense since Jesus was passing through. So, tired from His journey, He stops to get some water from a controversial figure. And that leads us to our first point.
Delivering the Good News breaks down barriers (of race, religion, social and financial status, etc.) and builds bridges. This all started with Jesus reaching out to someone who was different. He didn’t say anything offensive. There were no racial slurs. He wasn’t looking for a fight. He wasn’t confrontational. With those four words He built a bridge and broke down barriers. This is Missional Prime at its best! Jesus was just going about His day. He ended up including someone in something He was already doing. He didn’t add anything to His schedule. There was no outreach event. There was no special children’s program to reach out to young, perfect, rich families to pad the church budget and fill His wallet.
Abe and I were talking about that last Tuesday over breakfast. We decided that if Jesus was here during our day He wouldn’t be showing up in a shirt and tie trying to reach the perfect families in the perfect cookie cutter developments. He’d probably be riding in on a Harley or a Volkswagen Van from the 60’s and going straight to the people that get shunned and ignored. He’d go to the people churches typically don’t reach out to. And it didn’t matter what their background was. It didn’t matter if they were a half-anything. It didn’t matter if they were poor. It didn’t matter if they were homeless or sick. And people took notice. It was hard to miss. This woman was surprised that He even spoke to her, a Samaritan, a sinner, and a woman!
So the application is clear. Jesus built bridges and found common ground with people as He built relationships. The Apostle Paul said, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor.9:20-22 NIV).
One thing Paul left out there was, To the Marylanders, I became a Ravens fan, to win the Marylanders (even though I still bleed green. Go Birds!). It’s not always convenient. Not everyone’s like us. But if we only reach out to people that are like us it means that we only love ourselves. The example of Jesus is to get uncomfortable, to break down barriers, and build bridges. The application is to walk with Him and follow in His footsteps because when we’re in heaven one day, we’ll be forever working with, worshipping with, and being with people from all nations and backgrounds. He wants us ALL together. He wants us united. We’re all equal.
2. Delivering the Good News can vary based on need (background, knowledge, experience) even though the message is always the same.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:10-15 ESV).
So this conversation is very similar to the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus. Jesus is giving a spiritual explanation, but she’s only thinking about the physical. But what Jesus was doing was delivering the news in a slightly different way based on what she needed to hear in that situation. They were at a well. And this particular one was a well that collected water over time. It was not fed by an underground spring. So Jesus is talking about the difference between the physical and the spiritual. Once we have eternal life, once we have the Holy Spirit, we’ll never thirst again (spiritually). In this physical life, we will thirst and eventually die.
And this gives us great insight into how to deliver the Good News. Delivering the Good News can vary based on need (background, knowledge, experience) even though the message is always the same. Every time we start to build a relationship with someone and share the Good News, it will be different. We can’t use a pre-fab, pre-recorded, one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism. Everyone has a different background and worldview based on many different factors. That goes back to the shot gun approach. I’ve never seen it work unless you’re scaring someone. And scaring people into heaven is not what God intended.
Telling someone that they should accept Jesus now because they might walk outside, get hit by a car, and go to hell is manipulative. I heard that so many times as a kid that I also regurgitated it until God slapped me upside the head and knocked some sense into me. But like I’ve said before, everyone believes something. So we need to find out what that is and approach each person and situation individually. We need to listen to what people say. We need to find out what they believe and why they believe it.
And once we know where they are, we can figure out how to share the Good News. Some people have some general knowledge of God that’s faulty. Some people feel very beat down. Their version of God is that evil wizard in the sky waiting to strike them with a lightning bolt. But that’s not God. Some people are afraid to get out of the Catholic church because they were told they’ll go to hell if they leave or they’ll end up in purgatory. There’s a lot of false information out there. Everyone has different backgrounds, knowledge, and experience. Some of it is based on truth, some on half-truths, and some is downright false teaching. So it takes time to listen and find out where people are. It takes time to break down barriers.
Nevertheless, we might end up sharing the Good News thousands of times in our lives. Yet, if we’re doing it right, it’ll probably never be the same twice. The woman at the well needed to hear something different than Nicodemus. That’s why both stories are recorded and not just one. The Good News never changes. But the way we deliver the news is always changing and adapting to the individual.
I got a little frustrated this past week with one of my elementary kids on the bus. I got cameras installed almost two weeks ago. And since they went live, the kids have been doing great. But I had this one kid who always seems to be a problem. He was a problem last year. And I had to move him up front. He was not only not following the rules (he wasn’t sitting down), but he was also talking back to me. So I pulled out my sheet to write him up. But then I started talking to him. I asked him what was going on. And what he said threw me for a loop.
He said, I hate school. And then he got really quiet. And then I felt bad. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. I realized the approach that I was taking wasn’t working. And I still had the justification to write him up. I had the video evidence. But I had this little tug on my heart and I started talking to him and asking questions. And I learned that he played trumpet in band. And I was like, I played trumpet! In fact, I was pretty good at it. I really enjoyed it.
And then he asked me, When did you quit? And I was like, I never really quit. I kept up with it and got pretty good. And that was about as far as we got because it was time for him to get off the bus. But the weird thing was that the next day he wasn’t a problem at all. I think I might’ve had to ask him to slide in once but that was it. He didn’t give me any attitude. It’s too early to tell if I’m on to something or whether it was a long-term solution but my heart breaks for some of these kids because you just don’t know what’s going on at home. But one thing I do know is that one little conversation changed the whole situation. I needed to listen to him.
And when we share the gospel, it’s important to listen to people. Everyone will have a different reason for believing what they believe. And some people will respond right away. For others it might take years. You might plant a seed that someone else will water and God just might cause it to grow some day. Delivering the Good News can vary based on need (background, knowledge, experience) even though the message is always the same.
3. Delivering the Good News includes being brutally honest (in the most gentle way possible) and meeting people where they are (without judgment or condemnation).
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:16-24 ESV).
So this is the moment of truth. Jesus gets to the heart of what He wants to say to this woman. But He chooses to do it in a subtle way. He does expose the truth. He exposes her sin, in private, yet in a way that showed love and challenged her at the same time. That’s a fine line to walk. He knows she’s not married. He knows she’s had five husbands. He knows the man she’s with now isn’t her husband. But He doesn’t hang her or burn her at the stake. If it was still allowed by law in our day and age I think some Christians would still want to do that!
But Jesus never approached it like that. If anyone had a right to judge her it was Jesus. He actually was perfect. He actually IS God. He IS the Judge. But He didn’t do that. He simply brought up the sin. And how did she react? She changed the subject. It could be because she realized He was a prophet and she actually had valid questions. It could also be because she was trying to avoid talking about her sin. It doesn’t say why she asked the question, but He answered.
And if you think about it, it’s a question we ALL have. Who’s right? Which denomination is right? Who’s more theologically correct? Calvin or Arminius? When’s the rapture going to happen? Pre-trib, Mid-trib, Pre-Wrath, Post-Trib, or any one of a thousand other interpretations?
For this woman, the question was, Who is right? The Jews or the Samaritans? Samaritans worshipped on Mt. Gerizim. The Jews worshipped on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. They hated each other. So maybe she really wanted to know who was right. I still have questions about a lot of things, none of which the Bible give a clear answer to. And I believe that’s for good reason!
It’s so easy to get distracted! Some things we weren’t meant to know just yet. God probably will answer those questions one day. But until then, we need not get distracted from our mission!
I get so easily distracted. I really think I have a problem. I have no short-term memory at all. One time a few years back, Olivia sent me to the basement for corn and I came up with the laundry! And it still happens all the time. Sometimes I’ll be on my way to do something and I’ll forget what the heck I was doing. Usually it involves my cell phone. I’ll be talking to Olivia on my phone and I’ll think of something I need to check on. So I’ll start looking for my phone. And I’m like, Where’s my phone? I get distracted so easily.
Christians get distracted easily too. It’s hard not to. Distractions are everywhere! We can get distracted reading and studying the Bible. We’ll get into a debate and look up Greek and Hebrew words. And we’ll start to look for times and dates to end-times prophecies and Bible verses that point to the end of time. But we forget why we study it in the first place. We forget that it’s supposed to motivate us to reach out to people, to make disciples! We forget that we’re supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves so we can reach them with Good News.
We argue about whether or not we can lose our salvation, but we forget the whole point of having a healthy relationship with God. And if we have a healthy relationship with God (and we’re on mission), losing our salvation will never be an issue! Sin will never be an issue. When we’re on mission, when we’re in Missional Prime Mode, we don’t have time to sin! We’re too busy building relationships with people! But it’s very easy to get distracted.
So this woman, for whatever reason, asked the question. And Jesus answered. But He didn’t answer it with the Jews are right and the Samaritans are wrong. He said, Pretty soon it won’t matter because people need to worship God in Spirit and in truth! The Jews had already destroyed the Samaritan temple anyway (about 150 years before this meeting). And the Jewish temple was also about to be destroyed 40+ years AFTER this meeting. But holy sites were a big deal back then. Even in America today, people view church buildings in the same way.
They think the only place you can worship God is in a building one day a week for an hour or two. We call them houses of worship. But it distracts us from our mission and purpose in life. The church isn’t the building. It’s the people. And we can worship God anywhere, even in a living room! So this woman might’ve tried to change the subject, but Jesus gave the truth. Yet He wasn’t a jerk about it. His bedside manner was pleasant. And that’s our final point.
Delivering the Good News includes being brutally honest (in the most gentle way possible) and meeting people where they are (without judgment or condemnation). Jesus had no problem reaching out to sinners. He loved them and accepted them. And you can do that without approving of the sin. We all sin. It doesn’t make the sin OK. But we all need time to come to terms with the truth and repent. Jesus loved the woman at the well way too much to leave her in her sin. But He didn’t judge or condemn her.
He simply pushed her in the right direction. My motto is that I always want to leave people in a better place than when I found them. But that happens with patience and love. It doesn’t happen with a shot gun. So let’s welcome people into our lives. Let’s invite people around our table. And it will be messy. Next week we’ll find out what happens to her and her town as we finish the story.
Questions to consider…
1. Is it easy to understand how many people have been turned off by Christians because they have taken a hard-nosed, in your face, and an impersonal (presentation based) approach to evangelism? How did Jesus’ relational method differ from the information based delivery? Does it make sense that people would respond in a more positive way to a pleasant bedside manner rather than a confrontational delivery?
2. How often do you hang out with people who are different than you (race, religion, financial status, social status)? Were you raised in a home (or did you have family and friends) that held racist views or had a superiority complex? Does that background affect the way you are around people who are different than you? Does it make sense that if we only hang out with people who are like us, we only love ourselves?
3. Is it easier to think of evangelism as building a relationship with someone rather than treating people as projects to be completed or prey to be hunted? Rather than cold-calling people and pressuring them to make a decision with a lot of information, wouldn’t a better way be to spend time with them and get to know them first to find out who they are and what they believe?
4. How hard is it for you to share the truth in love with someone without judging or condemning them based on your background? Can you welcome people that are hard to love around our table? Does welcoming people who are different and/or rough around the edges turn other people off (you know like the perfect people we’re trying to reach from suburbia)? Or does it show that you have a big heart (God’s heart for the one lost sheep)?